This lively and intimately-crafted documentary immerses the audience in rock icon Carlos Santana's life and musical trajectory. Filmmaker Rudy Valdez bolsters this personal narrative with pulsating, never-before-seen footage — guided by Santana himself, in his own words.

  • Released: 2023-06-17
  • Runtime: 98 minutes
  • Genre: Documentaries, Music
  • Stars: Gregg Rolie, José Areas, Carlos Santana, Cindy Blackman, Mike Shrieve, Michael Carabello
  • Director: Rudy Valdez
  • fvenyc - 19 June 2023
    Yours is the Light
    Yesterday I had the privilege to watch the premiere of "Carlos", together with some of my closest friends. It was a wonderful experience as the documentary is overall very well made.

    In terms of technical aspects, the production is excellent. The sound and editing are very well done and the well-picked archive materials were mixed in naturally, adding very intuitively to the overall story. There were many detailed facts that were highly accurate; something that adds to the integrity of the rest of the material.

    The best part of the production is the scope setting and how consistently the director stayed within this scope. This is not a movie about the Santana Band and its history, it's not even as much about Carlos as a musician, although being a musician is a main driver of his identity. The main theme as about a man overcoming his insecurities through life through a belief in himself, fed by various father figures. That's a universal theme and was subtly blended with other themes including immigration, sexual harassment, financial hardship, divorce, addictions, loss of loved ones, challenges in trusted relationships and modern-day pressure of society. I'm convinced every viewer should be able to relate to at least a few of these elements; so you don't need to be a Santana fan to be able to appreciate this movie a lot. Despite some of these heavier themes, the general atmosphere of the movie is actually light and full with humor and subtleties.

    Carlos had a battered childhood; something the movie treated delicately (and thankfully didn't over-index on). His story depicted in "Carlos" is about his journey through life, battling his insecurities and his process of making peace with his inner secrets. Some key support figures in this journey have been his father, his guru Sri Chinmoy and his two mentors in the music business (Bill Graham and Clive Davis). Personally, I believe Armando Peraza should have been recognized as the fifth "father-figure" but was sadly missing. In either event, the film concentrated on this scope and there was not much or even nothing about his former band members, other friends, his musical inspirations, his mother or brother, or relationship with his fans. One could criticize that narrow scope, but I believe it was very supportive of a strong film as the consistency of the theme allowed for a well-flowing narrative and it provided sufficient depth at the same time. Another point of criticism could be that we don't hear many external critical points of view, although that is compensated by some honest self-reflections Carlos shares.

    For his many music fans, this it should also be a very pleasing watching experience as the film provides a lot of revealing background that offers context to his rich music legacy. Moreover, the film contains some fantastic archive materials, including the first ever recorded music by Carlos, which is a gem for true fans as that material has never been accessible before. There were a few great clips of Carlos playing shirtless at home, almost as a physically metaphor of being stripped from everything else and just presenting him as the man he truly is.

    To conclude, this movie is an absolute pleasure to watch as it was made with a very specific intention and a lot of integrity. It was a great walk through a music icon's life and it was very comforting to see that Carlos is doing so well. Bless him.